Freud noticed this early on in his work and even formalized it initially by saying that analysis falls into two stages: one stage in which the analyst presents the patient with fine explanations of her symptoms, and a second in which change finally occurs, the patient taking up the material of her own analysis herself. Later, Freud formulated the problem differently, in terms of what he called “an economic factor”: a powerful force must be holding the patient’s symptom in place—the patient must be deriving considerable satisfaction from it (even if it is, as Freud qualifies it, a “substitute” satisfaction).
This brings up the fundamental distinction that Freud makes between representation and affect. For example, if we hypnotize a patient, we can elicit all kinds of representations from him—we can get him to remember the most minute details of events that he cannot remember at all while awake, we can get him to put into words many aspects of his history—but often nothing changes. When we wake him up from hypnosis, he remembers nothing more than before, and the symptoms that seem to be tied to those events often remain intact. It is only when the patient is able to articulate his history and feel something at the same time—some emotion or affect—that change occurs.
Representation without affect is thus sterile.This is one of the reasons for the sterility of so-called “self-analysis”: you tell yourself lovely stories about the past, you analyze your dreams and fantasies to yourself or on paper, but nothing happens, nothing changes. It is all very informative and interesting; you remember all kinds of things about your past, but there is no metamorphosis. Affect is rarely brought into play without the presence of another person to whom you address all of these thoughts, dreams, and fantasies."